Critics’ Picks

Sheila Hicks, May I Have This Dance?, 2002–2003, dyed and twisted linen with cork and synthetic core, dimensions variable.


Sheila Hicks

ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania 118 South 36th Street
March 24–August 7

To weave, to twist, to knot, to wrap—the processes animating fifty years of fiber-based work in Sheila Hicks’s traveling retrospective may conjure several of the actions inventoried in Richard Serra’s iconic 1967–68 Verb List, which is now on view in his survey of drawings at the Metropolitan Museum. Here are a few more connections linking this (very) odd couple: Both received MFAs from Yale (Hicks in 1959, Serra in 1964); both studied with Josef Albers; both make “sculpture in the expanded field”; both use unconventional materials; both make monumental public art. And yet Serra is much more known, his statements made in steel, lead, and paint stick; hers are made in wool, linen, and cotton.

The New York art world and art history, perpetually allergic to textiles, have never fully embraced Hicks, but her work has thrived internationally nonetheless. This show places her in plainspoken dialogue with artists such as Eva Hesse, Rosemarie Trockel, Alan Shields, Richard Tuttle, and Sergej Jensen (to name just a few), as well as those, like Beryl Korot, who have researched the technology of weaving in their work. It cherry-picks from the best of Hicks’s oeuvre, from the miniature to the monumental: One wall showcases sixty-two of the “minimes,” weavings no bigger than a page; another bursts forth with May I Have This Dance?, 2002–2003, a site-specific forty-foot-tall waterfall of multicolored thread-wrapped cables that pour from the ceiling into a twenty-five-foot pond of coils and loops. Metaphoric to be sure, the latter work is also a prime example of Hicks’s long-term investigations of color, as hemmed to the specific structure of a given work––in this case, repeated and irregular forms that conjure a palimpsest, or a hodgepodge pool of Arts and Crafts, modernism, Minimalism, and post-Minimalism––commissioned by the Target Corporation to boot.